Leadership Lessons from Confucius: qualified to serve?

qualified to serve

Confucius said: “Meng Gongchuo is more than qualified to serve as the steward for the Zhao and Wei families, but he is not qualified to serve as a minister in the states of Teng and Xue.”
子曰:「孟公綽為趙魏老則優,不可以為滕薛大夫。」

What is the right platform for your development? A startup with plenty of potential to grow and give you exposure to a broad range of responsibilities or a large corporation that will give you an established stage to perform on and a clear future career path?

There’s no right answer to these questions. You need to carefully consider all your options and analyze which one is the best fit for your abilities, goals, and temperament.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 11 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

(1) Meng Gongchuo was a head of the Meng Family, one of the notorious Three Families that had usurped control of the state of Lu from its nominal ruler. Although Meng was by many accounts a widely respected minister, Confucius seriously doubts that he has the ability to handle the complexity of ruling a small state on his own – much less Lu itself. His mediocre talents make him much better suited to the more stable and less demanding task of managing a large noble household.

(2) The Zhao and Wei were powerful noble families in the state of Jin. They eventually usurped the control of the state together with the Han Family in much the same way as the Three Families took over the government of the state of Lu.

(3) Teng and Xue were small but independent states located close to Lu that were notorious for the turbulence of their internal politics. 

I took the top image at the Zhusi Academy in Qufu. Confucius is said to have taught his students here after returning to Lu from exile in in 848 BCE, as well as compiling the Book of Songs, Book of History, Book of Rites, Book of Music, and Book of Changes. You can read more about the Zhusi Academy here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *